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PhD Studentship - Programmable-Impedance Wind Instruments

School of Engineering

Location:  Highfield Campus
Closing Date:  Sunday 31 May 2020
Reference:  1236820DA

Supervisor:                 Dr Matthew Wright

Project description

Many attempts have been made to make electric versions of different wind instruments, in the hope of extending the sound and versatility in the same way that the electric guitar expanded and revolutionised guitar playing. For example, a mic’ed up trumpet can be played through effects pedals, or a breath-sensor can be used to control a synthesiser. None of these approaches has had widespread impact. The purpose of this project is to implement and investigate a better approach, which uses active control to programme the instruments impedance.

Musical wind instruments, (trumpet, saxophone, flute, recorder etc) all consist of:

  • An excitation mechanism (the lips, the reed if present, and the mouthpiece) that is strongly nonlinear and capable of self-sustained oscillation

  • An air column that acts as an approximately linear acoustic system, which determines the pitch of the note played according to the resonances in its input impedance

The player varies the sound expressively via the mouthpiece, while manually changing the impedance of the air-column by covering and uncovering holes (woodwind) or varying its length (brass).

The aim of this project is to develop Programmable-Impedance Wind Instruments (PIWIs) whose air-column impedance is changed via active control. For example, a reed player could gradually change their instrument from clarinet (cylindrical bore) to saxophone (conical bore) while playing. New ways of playing would become possible with finger-holes, keys, valves replaced by any interface to the DSP (touch-sensitive, motion capture etc). Instruments could be made easier to learn and more accessible to disabled musicians.

A PhD student with ability in acoustics, signal processing and music is sought, to design and make a new class of wind instruments with actively controlled air columns. You will have to investigate the most appropriate transducers for different instruments’ pitches and amplitudes, design and make the air-columns and implement the active control. You will also need to do outreach work with musicians to explore the possibilities of this new class of instrument, and to publicise the results

This is an Institute of Sound and Vibration Centre (ISVR) studentship. ISVR is a leading international centre for research in acoustics and vibration. We have a range of fully funded projects and offer our students a dynamic and supportive research environment, world-class facilities, high quality projects and key skills. 

A postgraduate degree from the University of Southampton will give you the edge in your career in industry or academia.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Dr Matthew Wright, Acoustics Research Group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 2153.

Entry Requirements

A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent).

Closing date: applications should be received no later than 31 May 2020 for standard admissions, but later applications may be considered depending on the funds remaining in place.

Funding: full tuition fees for EU/UK students plus for UK students, an enhanced stipend of £15,009 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years. 

How To Apply

Applications should be made online here selecting “PhD Eng & Env (Full time)” as the programme. Please enter Dr Matthew Wright under the proposed supervisor.

Applications should include

Research Proposal

Curriculum Vitae

Two reference letters

Degree Transcripts to date

Apply online:

For further information please contact:

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